Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 24, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda: "Hit Jews and Americans"  (Reuters)
    Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri called for attacks on Israeli and Western targets in an audio tape posted on the Internet on Monday.
    "O Muslims. Today is your day. Hit the interest of the Jews and the Americans and all those who participated in the aggression against Muslims," Zawahiri said.
    "Monitor the targets, collect the money, prepare the hardware, plan accurately and then attack....No one can say today that we should fight the Jews in Palestine only."

Palestinian Rockets Interrupt Purim Holiday in Israel (UPI)
    The Purim festival in southern Israel was interrupted Friday afternoon by rockets fired by Palestinians from Gaza.
    In Kibbutz Alumim, 600 people at a street fair scattered, looking for shelter, when warning sirens sounded.

Father of Iran's Drive for Nuclear Warhead Named - Michael Smith (Times-UK)
    Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, 47, a senior officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and a lecturer in physics at Tehran's Imam Hussein University, has emerged as the father of a nuclear program that Western intelligence services believe is aimed at producing a warhead capable of devastating any city in the Middle East.

Israel Okays 25 Russian-Made Armored Vehicles for PA (AFP)
    Israel on Friday authorized the Palestinian Authority to import 25 Russian-made armored vehicles to the West Bank, an Israeli defense ministry official said Saturday.
    The delivery, which has been pending for months, was approved during a visit to the region by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
    Moscow has proposed providing the Palestinians with 50 armored vehicles over two years, but Israel can veto the second shipment if it fears that the vehicles may fall into the hands of militants.

Saddam Hussein's Son Uday Ordered Hit Squad to Carry Out Murders and Bombings in Britain - Michael Smith (Sunday Times-UK)
    Saddam Hussein's son Uday hatched a plot to assassinate Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi in London in April 2000, according to a new Pentagon study based on documents seized during the Iraq war.
    The documents show that officials at the Iraqi embassy in London had a stock of weapons that Saddam had ordered them to destroy in July 2002, including seven Kalashnikov guns, 19 other guns with ammunition, and silencers.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Cheney: Hamas "Torpedoes" Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks - Deb Riechmann
    Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Hamas, with support from Syria and Iran, is trying to "torpedo" peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. (AP)
        See also Cheney Warns Palestinians Over Anti-Israel Violence
    Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday warned the Palestinians during a visit to Ramallah that attacks on Israel were killing hopes for their "long overdue" state. "A difficult but immutable truth must continue to be told: Terror and rockets do not merely kill innocent civilians, they also kill the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people," Cheney said. (AFP)
        See also Cheney Affirms U.S. Commitment to Israel's Security - Ashraf Khalil
    Vice President Dick Cheney affirmed America's "enduring and unshakable" commitment to Israel's security at the start of a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Although Cheney said Saturday that "tough decisions and painful concessions on both sides" were needed, he pledged that "the United States will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Fatah and Hamas Agree to Resume Talks - Ahmed Al-Haj
    Fatah and Hamas signed a declaration in Sanaa, Yemen, on Sunday accepting a Yemeni initiative calling for the creation of a national unity government, but failed to resolve the crucial question of how the rival factions should share power. After five days of talks using Yemeni officials as intermediaries, the West Bank-based Fatah government met face-to-face with representatives of Hamas. (AP)
        See also Doubt Cast on Palestinian Agreement
    Soon after the signing ceremony, the two sides expressed disagreement over the Sanaa declaration's meaning. Critics said the deal appears to have little substance, with Fatah and Hamas agreeing only to open talks on a number of issues. (Al Jazeera-Qatar)
  • Terrorism Money Is Still Flowing - Josh Meyer
    The U.S.-led effort to choke off financing for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups is foundering, according to current and former officials and independent experts. In some cases, extremist groups have blunted financial anti-terrorism tools by finding new ways to raise, transfer and spend their money. In other cases, the administration has stumbled over legal difficulties and interagency fighting. But the most serious problems are fractures and mistrust within the coalition of nations that the U.S. admits it needs to target financiers of terrorism.
        "The international cooperation and focus is dropping, the farther we get from 9/11," said Michael Jacobson, who was a senior advisor in the Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence until March 2007. "Some countries lack political will. Others just don't have the basic capacity to govern their countries, much less create a viable financial intelligence unit." Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other key nations have not taken the necessary steps to crack down on terrorist financing or suspect money flowing across their borders. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Pope Baptizes Prominent Italian Muslim - Nicole Winfield
    Italy's most prominent Muslim, a writer who condemned Islamic extremism and defended Israel, converted to Catholicism Saturday in a baptism by the pope at a Vatican Easter service. An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim who is married to a Catholic, Magdi Allam infuriated some Muslims with his books and columns in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, where he is a deputy editor. He titled one book Long Live Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Peres Warns Against Returning Golan
    Israel will not agree to a deal with Syria involving the return of the Golan Heights, President Shimon Peres said Sunday. "If the Golan is given back, it will boost Iran's influence in Lebanon and the territory will effectively be under Iranian-Syrian control," Peres told visiting U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Saddam Collected Information from PA on Potential Targets in Israel - Amir Oren
    Saddam Hussein's intelligence service collected information on dozens of sites in Israel, including airports, other transportation centers, as well as scientific and religious centers that were thought to be potential targets for attacks. Among the sources providing intelligence to Saddam's regime was Force 17, the security force of Yasser Arafat, which planned and carried out attacks against Israeli targets from its Ramallah headquarters. This information emerged following the release of documents captured during the American invasion in 2003. The captured documents also detail a 2001 plan to release jailed Iraqis if they agreed to volunteer to carry out attacks on Israeli targets. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Open Fire on Farmers at Israeli Kibbutz
    Palestinians opened fire at farmers working in the field of an Israeli kibbutz near Gaza on Sunday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Gaza Dilemma - Leslie Susser
    If Israel had tolerated years of Kassam rockets raining down on the town of Sderot and other communities close to Gaza, the heavier, longer-range Grad [Katyusha] rockets crashing into the coastal city of Ashkelon crossed an unacceptable red line: They placed hundreds of thousands of Israelis under threat and put strategic installations at risk. Worse: If the trend was allowed to continue, bigger and heavier rockets could soon threaten metropolitan Tel Aviv.
        Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, former commander of the Southern Front responsible for Gaza, says Israel needs to act soon: "Otherwise, in a few years time, we could find ourselves fighting on two fronts, under a hail of hundreds of rockets a day, covering virtually all of Israel." (Jerusalem Report)
  • Saddam's Terror Links - Editorial
    A new Pentagon report suggests that Iraq's links to world-wide terror networks, including al-Qaeda, were far more extensive than previously understood. Throughout the 1990s, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) cooperated with Hamas; the Palestine Liberation Front, which maintained a Baghdad office; Force 17, Yasser Arafat's private army; and others. The IIS gave commando training for members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the organization that assassinated Anwar Sadat and whose "emir" was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became Osama bin Laden's second-in-command when the group merged with al-Qaeda in 1998.
        Captured documents "reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al-Qaeda - as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term version," the report said. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    "Moderate" Palestinians of Fatah Undergoing Radicalization - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • Fatah and the PA continue to be corrupt, incompetent and incapable of self-reform. Given the cult of violence and total victory dominating Palestinian political culture, Hamas is inevitably seen as heroic because it fights and rejects compromise. Based on underestimating Israel (always seen on the verge of collapse) and overestimating its own forces (heroic martyrs aided by history and deity), it expects to win. Compromise is treason; moderation is cowardice. This is the daily fare of Palestinian ideology and politics, purveyed by leaders, clerics, media and schools.
    • Fatah is undergoing a radicalization process which may not displace Abbas, but will install his successor. Public opinion is also more extreme, with support for terrorism zooming upward. Fatah both heeds and feeds the trend.
    • We are now seeing the birth of a new Fatah all right, an even more extremist version, coming from the Aksa Brigades. Contrary to much reportage, this is not an "offshoot" but an essential part of Fatah. The Brigades demand Prime Minister Fayad's firing and replacement by "a new government that would not abandon the armed struggle." Like others in the Fatah leadership, its strategy is not to fight but ally with Hamas. That's the kind of thinking that makes the movement so impossible to change or move toward peace.
    • The main thing keeping Fayad in office is the fact that removing him would kiss good-bye to almost $7 billion in Western aid. Like the U.S. arms abandoned by Fatah in fleeing Gaza, much of the money could end up in Hamas' hands. Or it will pass to Abbas' successor.
    • Many in the West believe that whenever Palestinian leaders reject peace, it must be because they were not offered enough. Westerners think Fatah and the PA merely need to raise Palestinian living standards and get a state to show their people that Hamas is a failure and the PA a success. Yet, as horrible as it sounds, in Palestinian politics success is still measured by the number of Israelis killed and by who never gives up the chance for total victory and Israel's disappearance some day.
    • Given the strategic realities, Israel must deal with the PA and try to keep Fatah in power on the West Bank. But there should be no illusions. Solving the conflict won't happen. Putting it atop Western governments' agenda, blaming Israel for Palestinian intransigence, and romanticizing Fatah and the PA is a big mistake.

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at IDC Herzliya and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs.

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